Although perhaps not the most glamorous public health issue, colorectal cancer has been getting a fair amount of air time lately. That’s because a new report from the American Institute of Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund finds that whole grains are one of the top recommendations for preventing colorectal cancer. Specifically, they found that about 3 servings of whole grain foods per day (90g) reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%.


Click image to enlarge

Better yet, every little bit counts. The researchers identified a dose-response relationship, meaning that smaller amounts of whole grains are linked with a lower risk, while larger amounts may offer even greater protection. These findings are notable because of the depth of the research – 99 studies encompassing 29 million people were analyzed—and because this is the first time that whole grains have been independently linked to lower cancer risk (as opposed to being part of an overall healthy diet, or a high-fiber diet).

The colon and rectum are the final stations at the end of your digestive tract, so it stands to reason that the foods you eat may help impact your risk of developing this cancer. Fiber gets much of the attention when it comes to digestive health and colorectal cancer prevention, but what the authors of this new report found was that the evidence for whole grains is actually stronger than the evidence for fiber alone.

Although fiber is a known nutrition powerhouse, whole grains have a number of other bioactive compounds in addition to fiber, many of which are thought to have plausible anti-carcinogenic properties. These include vitamin E, selenium, copper, zinc, lignans, phytoestrogens, and phenolic compounds. Additionally, the authors reason that “Whole grains may also protect against colorectal cancer by binding carcinogens and regulating glycemic response.”

In addition to eating more whole grains and foods containing fiber, the report found strong evidence that physical activity, dairy products, and calcium supplements may help decrease colorectal cancer risk, while processed meats, alcoholic drinks, body fatness, red meat, and tall height are associated with increased cancer risk.

The origins of cancer are frustratingly elusive, so when researchers discover lifestyle changes that may help temper the odds, it’s in everyone’s best interest to take those first few steps down a cancer preventative path. Today, we’re unveiling our new infographic (see above) about whole grains and colorectal cancer. Share these findings on social media, tagging @oldwayspt and @aicrtweets, then head to the kitchen and whip up your favorite whole grain dish! 

Kelly Toups, Director of Nutrition


Carri Quimby
Any way to put this wonderful poster into a PDF?
Hi Carri, glad you like it! This URL has all our Whole Grains Council infographics, including this one as a PDF:
Nancy Paul
I always find your emails interesting and full of important information. Unlike so many of the emails filling my mailbox, I actually read yours. Thanks

Add a Comment